Discover more from Fortitude
The Courage to Recognize Your True Work
with thanks to Mary Oliver and David Whyte
Seventh Day Messaging
—with thanks to Mary Oliver’s Messenger
My work is learning to balance self-care and service.
Here the purple pen and blank paper waiting
for creative expression to appear.
Hear the cat meowing for attention.
Hear the silenced cell phone buzzing.
There the inbox, the calendar, the To Do list.
Is my pen empty? Is the desk littered?
Am I no longer juicy with ideas, blocked or brewing?
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly taking walks and learning to
The moon, Jupiter, Mars,
the snails on the summer sidewalk,
the frosted leaves in winter
which is mostly looking for meaning
in synchronicity and loss and divine mischief
and dreams showing me the gifts in the dumpster.
My work is learning to let go of due dates
and allow life & books to gestate like elephants,
to let meaning arise like the blind men describing
the elephant’s trunk, ears, legs, tail,
which is looking for wholeness, since all the ingredients are here.
My work is welcoming new or seasoned voices
as they emerge, creating their own courage
for meaning making,
which is to listen, to give and be given
good questions to ponder,
which is letting the answers arise slowly
like seeds planted deep.
My work is being a shepherd to change,
a Sherpa hiking the rough terrain
of cancer, dementia, illness and grief,
which is learning what to carry and
what to lay down on a flat rock
to let compost, or stack, or become snacks for ravens.
My work is learning to let my voice sing,
allowing joy on the journey,
encouraging thumbs to strengthen or rest
or keep writing.
My work is balancing being and doing,
which is to be me and do what I love,
without regret, with knowing love never dies
and neither do I.
Saturday, January 7, 2023
It’s been a long stretch and dry spell since last posting a blog. Since then was September’s trip to Philadelphia for the most joyful day of the year, the decade—Wil and Russell’s wedding celebration. September’s return home with Covid. Once recovered from that, October’s gum graft and recovery. Reluctant days on the couch, feeling how hard it is to do self-care successfully, with the To Do list so noisily waiting. October’s caregiving when Dad had complications after Covid, cancelling his cancer-related surgery once, then twice, then rescheduling it for the week of Thanksgiving. Thankfully surgery going really well, Thanksgiving going on without a turkey but with good pumpkin pie and a new recipe—cranberry curd tart, delicious and pretty despite forgetting to prebake the crust of accidentally bought macadamia nuts instead of hazelnuts. December recovery, then mid-month getting my sister from the airport an hour south, getting a fresh Christmas tree at City Market on the drive back, then a week later getting her to urgent care and the ER to assess her vertigo, then recovery. Then Christmas. And in-between all that, appointments for my over-used thumbs—OT, chiropractor, PT, acupuncture. Then New Years. Hallelujah! Push reset. A fresh start to a new year (because it’s my birthday month).
The first Saturday of January, I attended an online writing sampler class by my friend Karen Fricke for her local chapter of a national organization called Women Writing for (a) Change. Ninety deep-breathing, soul-seeing minutes in community with women writers. The agenda, as always, begins with quotes and a poem, by way of inspiration and introducing ourselves. And then a fast-write with five or more prompts inspired by the day’s poem. This day it was “Messenger” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst.
The 4th possible prompt: “Consider crafting your own poem using Mary Oliver’s as a model using the sentence beginnings to speak of your own place in the world.”
And there it was, my writing voice. Tom Jupiter’s meowing voice. The buzzing text from Dad. And yet out came a messenge from my inner author, my soul, telling me what I already knew. Inviting me afterward to read it aloud to ensure I really heard what I know.
What I love about this impromptu poem of mine (and Mary’s), and the sampler class, and 2023 so far—seven+ days in—is how it helps me trust that this year is going to be different. It might be just as hard as last year, or 2021, or 2020. And it might be one of my favorite years ever. This year I’m stronger for having gone through these past years. And wiser to know not to push too hard, to rest more often, to stretch more often, to lay things down more often, so that I can pick up where I left off, which is meaning-making and creating creative courage, and book-making and life-living. It might or might not mean consistency of posting blogs and social media. It will include consistency of self-care and service and joy in the midst of uncertainties, and certainly enjoying the book projects coming up.
Three Forthcoming Books
As the year unfolds, I’ll share more about the next three books from Creative Courage Press coming to a bookseller near you in 2023. They include, in debut order (dates being held somewhat lightly on purpose):
Side by Side: The Sacred Art of Couples Aging with Wisdom & Love by Caryl and Jay Casbon.
Caring for Self & Others: Transforming Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Soul Loss by David Kopacz MD.
Leaving a Charmed Life: A Memoir by Kadian R. Grant (final subtitle in progress)
You’ve probably heard or said the saying that we write what we need to learn. I’ll say we also publish what we want and need to learn. Publishing reminds me that we seem to live parallel lives, being humans. No matter and how wonderful our differences, we can still discover a common thread of humanity through books. I can hardly wait to share these new books with you this year and introduce you to these remarkable authors and their refreshing ideas.
What are you reading (or writing) this year?
What poem might come through your fingers if you considered Mary Oliver’s “Messenger” and what your true work is for the coming year?
Happy New Year, with two more of my favorite quotes as grace notes:
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